Multiple deaths as extreme weather sweeps Europe

Nature and Environment

Sleet from Lyon to Lübeck

On Saturday, large parts of central Europe were hit by black ice. In the eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania (above), police closed several motorways after numerous accidents. In Lower Saxony, in northwestern Germany, two people died in a head-on collision. In France, four people died when a bus slid off the road near Lyon. Some 20 people were injured.

Nature and Environment

Pavements like skating rinks

Black ice occurs when raindrops are so cold that they freeze while coming down to earth. This can turn pavements or roads into dangerous patches of ice within seconds or minutes. Drivers of vehicles are not the only ones in danger!

Nature and Environment

Istanbul: Late and canceled flights

Sleet can also crystallize on aircraft. The added weight can become a serious danger in the air. But in Istanbul, Turkey, hundreds of planes remained grounded at the city's two airports not because of sleet, but because of a heavy snowstorm. Road traffic also almost came to a halt at times.

Nature and Environment

Spending winter nights outside

Temperatures in eastern Europe have dipped far under freezing point. During the winter months, more than 100 people freeze to death here every year. Most of them are homeless people. This winter, according to Human Rights Watch, some 2,000 refugees are sleeping out in the open or in tents in Serbia (above) and Hungary - at temperatures of currently -20 C (-4 F).

Nature and Environment

Snow in the Mediterranean

Winter has also come to the Greek island of Lesbos. In the refugee camp there (above), authorities handed out blankets and fan heaters to migrants and opened heated halls and underground stations for homeless people. Snow is very rare on the Greek islands. Local media in the port city of Rethymno on Crete said it snowed there for the first time in 40 years on Sunday morning.

Nature and Environment

Winter joys - and sorrows

Russia, on the other hand, is very used to bone-chilling temperatures. Many people there - as here in Moscow - make a virtue of necessity and have fun in the cold. But people freeze to death here every year as well. And the temperatures are extremely low at present, going down to -50 C in some places - some 15 degrees less than is usual at this time of year.

Nature and Environment

Bleak outlook

The morning after the black ice, thick fog envelops much of central Europe. The Rhine can barely be seen from the windows of Deutsche Welle in Bonn, even though the river is just some 200 meters (yards) away. And the forecasts remain gloomy: Temperatures are meant to rise in the next few days, but winter could still be in for the long - and very cold - haul.

Blizzards, icy roads and dangerously low temperatures over the past two days have claimed more than a dozen lives in parts of Europe. The harsh winter weather has also cut off towns and caused massive power outages.

Four Portuguese tourists were killed and some 20 others were injured on Sunday when their bus skidded off an ice-covered highway in eastern France.

Nature and Environment | 08.01.2017

Authorities said the Switzerland-bound bus plummeted into a ditch in the Saone-et-Loire region near Lyon.

"It was very icy," state prosecutor Karine Malara said. "The weather conditions this morning were very bad."

Severe conditions across Europe have caused fatalities in a number of countries in recent days. Black ice across northern and western Germany was blamed for dozens of road accidents and injuries overnight. One person died near Hannover after their car skidded into a tree, the German Press Agency reported. Meanwhile, firefighters in the city of Hamburg said Sunday they had received 415 emergency calls for weather-related incidents.

Türkei Schnee in Istanbul

Children play in the snow in Istanbul

Freezing temperatures

In Poland, two men died of hypothermia on Saturday, bringing the nation's death toll from winter weather to 55 since November 1, authorities said. Some parts of the country saw temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsuis (minus 22 Fahrenheit). In the neighboring Czech Republic, three people died because of the icy weather, according to the CTK agency.

Eight weather-related deaths were reported in Italy, including a man who died of cold on a street near Florence's Arno River.

Police in Bulgaria said two Iraqi men and a Somali woman died from cold in the mountains near Turkey as they attempted to walk toward Europe.

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Bulgarian authorities said a passenger train derailed in the center of the country on Sunday after it hit a pile of snow. Meanwhile, several villages to the north were left without electricity and water. Similar conditions were reported in Serbia's south, where some towns were cut off by heavy snow and around 70 kilometers (43 miles) of water pipes froze.

Snow also fell on Istanbul, Turkey, for a third straight day, prompting major delays and hundreds of flight cancellations at the city's two main airports. 

nm/jm (AP, dpa, AFP)